Matthews to soon improve access to greenway trail

MATTHEWS – Matthews residents will soon see construction for easier connection to the Four Mile Creek Greenway behind the Matthews Community Center and Matthews Elementary School.

Matthews and Mecklenburg County first dedicated the greenway – a three-mile trail through the town that connects downtown, Matthews Elementary, the community center and Squirrel Lake Park – in April 2012. The community center parking lot currently serves as a point of parking and entry, along with the adjacent elementary school parking lot, which can be used for access to the town’s only greenway outside of school hours.

While town leaders say current access to the greenway is safe, with most foot traffic following the sidewalk path in front of the school to access the greenway, leaders have always hoped to create an alternate route.

“It’s going to make that trail accessible during the day so people won’t be meandering through the school property,” Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor said about the project. “There have been absolutely no complaints at all, but we just want to be proactive. It’s always better to be proactive then reactive, and keep only the appropriate (people) on school property.”

Construction for the new route, which would allow direct access to the greenway directly from the Matthews Community Center parking lot, could start as early as January and would help lessen traffic across the Matthews Elementary School property.

“It will make a defined path,” Corey King, Matthews parks and recreation director, said, adding after school hours, people tend to trek across the Matthews Elementary playground to gain access. “Right now, the path is just a man-made trail.”

The estimated cost of the new path comes in around $26,500, and includes a gravel path, to keep costs down, and new town wayfinding signs. But before the project can move forward, town leaders have to work with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, which technically owns the property the path would sit on, to pursue a user easement across the school district’s property for the trail. CMS already gave the town permission to conduct a survey of the land to identify wetlands in the area, as the trail is designated to stay out of sensitive areas as much as possible. Next, town leaders hope to take the plans conducted by a surveyor to CMS. King said the department hopes to start construction as soon as possible if given the go ahead.

“Our goal right now is to be complete by the end of March 2014,” King said.

The new entrance will not be visible to students playing on the playground at the elementary school, he added. “We just look at the school as a friendly neighbor to the greenway.”

The new entrance, King said, is planned to sit about 30 feet from community center dumpsters at the back of the property. The new route will make the walk to the trail shorter, but also a bit more scenic, King added.

“In our eyes, it will be a more defined path and more scenic path,” he said.

The entrance marks the completion of the Four Mile Creek Greenway for the Matthews portion, though King said plans are still in the works to have the walkway extend across Trade Street into Charlotte. As improvements and upkeep continues, King added the town hopes to continue to recruit help from local Eagle Scout-hopefuls to do some work at the trailheads, including benches and other added amenities and landscaping along the trails.

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